AI Isn’t Robots. It’s Smarter Answers.

How AI affects your business

Artificial intelligence is projected to contribute $15.7 trillion to the global economy by 2030, and the business benefits of AI are becoming apparent across verticals.

That said, confusion abounds over exactly what it really means to embrace an AI strategy, and how to tie it to key business objectives. David Neway, Head of Marketing at IBM Watson Advertising, helps answer some pressing questions that get at the heart of the AI revolution — and why it isn’t really about robots.

There’s a lot of confusion today over what an AI strategy actually means. What concrete benefits can advances in AI offer brands today?

We like to define AI as “augmented intelligence” vs. “artificial intelligence.” We see AI as having the power to enhance human decision-making and drive even better outcomes when man and machine work together, versus leveraging AI to replace the human experience.  

AI offers so many benefits to brands today, from influencing sales and engaging the customer to boosting operational efficiency and generating insights through deep analysis — all due to the ability to make sense of both structured and unstructured data. Our current era is particularly ripe for huge advances in the way we use AI because of:

  1. The proliferation of data (and lack of human capacity to analyze all of it)
  2. The increase in speed of processing
  3. The movement towards cloud-based storage, which has rendered data storage near infinite

What vertical-specific use cases do you see for AI?

The question should really be, “What industry has AI not affected in a positive way?” Here are some compelling examples from our work:

  • In financial services, H&R Block leveraged AI in consumer-facing technology at retail locations that relied on IBM Watson to enhance the client experience. The solution relied on cloud-based Watson services to understand context, interpret intent, and draw connections between clients’ statements and relevant areas of their tax return. Watson trained alongside H&R Block Tax Pros as they took clients through the tax return process, suggesting key areas where he or she may qualify for deductions and credits.
  • Daybreaker — the organization that holds morning dance parties starting with a 6am workout — partnered with IBM for the first “cognitive dance party,” powered by Watson AI. Upon registering, participants used the Watson Personality Insights service to analyze their strongest personality traits based on tweets or a short survey. Each personality received a color — purple for conscientious, red for outgoing and yellow for expressive. Dancers wore their designated colors to the event. Color groups also designated specialized fitness activities before the dance party. Yoga for the purple participants, capoeira for reds, and high-intensity interval training for the yellow crew.
  • In retail, Macy’s On Call is a first-of-its-kind AI solution that enhances the customer’s in-store shopping experience. Consumers can use the tool to navigate select Macy’s stores by department, brand, and product category — as well as gain insights into that store’s unique services.

A lot of businesses are especially interested in AI assistants (“chatbots”) but don’t know where to start. What can you share about smarter conversational marketing?

Consumers want answers, and brands need to address the most salient questions a customer is likely to have about a particular product or service via the interface consumers are using. For this reason, conversational marketing experiences — of which chatbots are one — have a lot of potential. They can help provide smarter answers.

Watson Ads was designed to address this need, helping to make recommendations about a particular product variant based on the consumer’s input. Watson Ads use Watson technology to help brands conduct one-on-one personalized dialogues with consumers at scale, deliver more relevant information than previously capable in an advertising unit, and help marketers uncover product insights faster than ever before. Watson Ads were initially launched on The Weather Channel properties, but can now be deployed by advertisers on nearly any digital property, ensuring these AI-powered conversational marketing experiences are intercepting consumers in the places that matter most.  

Finally, SMBs might not think AI can do much for their business, since they don’t have vast reserves of customer data to deal with. What would you tell them? Is there a way advances in AI can help smaller local businesses?

Yes! It’s a common misconception that businesses need troves of data to render AI applicable. That isn’t the case. Watson, for example, can learn from small data sets. The quality of your data, not the quantity, makes the difference.

Finally, AI can help small businesses reimagine workflows. It can help your business’ processes get smarter. For example, Watson embeds into your workflows to provide AI when you need it, where you need it, which applies as much to SMBs as it does to a multinational corporation.

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